Internet while traveling abroad is a frustrating mess.
A decade ago checking your email while on holiday equaled to walking to the nearest Internet cafe and enjoy a few minutes of slow internet combined with a can of Coke. But with the advent of the iPhone and cellular data, that practice evolved to searching for the nearest wifi hotspot or turning on mobile data ever so briefly to quickly look something up.
Previous years I would completely turn off cellular data while on holiday, and turn it on for only brief periods of time to purposefully do something online. Last year I decided I knew iOS good enough to leave the toggle for International Roaming permanently on, and just use correct settings in iOS to minimize data usage. It worked and I used less than 250MB of data for the wonderful prize of 50 euro. Note the sarcasm in that last sentence: Roaming is expensive, even if you decide what you are willing to spend on it in advance.
A few years ago The European Union promised us free roaming across Europe by the end of 2015. Sadly, this deadline has moved to 2017 at its earliest and even now it’s not sure we will get ‘free’ roaming without some hidden cost or added tax.
I don’t get why, in 2015, I can buy an imported Belgian beer in a bar on the Spanish coast for the same price that that beer would be in Belgium, but still need to pay 0,20€ per megabyte to post a picture of that same pint of on Instagram.
Luckily, popular tourist locations are catching up, and Vodafone Spain offers tourists what they call a ‘Welcome to Spain’ package: for 15 euro they’ll sell you a new SIM card with 1GB of fast LTE data (and you can buy 2GB more for another 3€). No more roaming and I can use my iPhone exactly the same as I would in Belgium: stream music, browse Twitter, read RSS feeds,…
A new SIM card means losing my Belgian phone number for a while though. But thanks to iMessage and FaceTime Audio I am still reachable for friends who know my personal iCloud email address, with the added benefit that work and colleagues who call or message me on my original number won’t be able to reach me for the duration of my stay.
Even so, this is a problem that should have been solved already and should not require these kinds of workarounds.